October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As it does every year in October, the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) recently released a report on domestic violence homicides committed in the state in the past year, the most recent year for which statistics are available. According to the report, 228 Texans died at the hand of an intimate partner in 2020, up 23 percent over 2019 and the highest number in the past decade. The deaths include 183 women killed by a male partner, 40 men killed by a female partner, and 5 men and women killed by a same-sex partner. Prior to 2018, the TCFV reports only dealt with women killed by men, which are the vast majority of cases. In addition to the report summary, the TCFV provides a summery of each of the deadly incidents. It makes for harrowing reading.
In addition to the primary victim, these incidents claimed the lives of 31 friends, family, and bystanders, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A further 17 people were injured. Among the collateral deaths, the youngest was a two-year-old boy. Other young victims were four-year-old Brayden Richardson and three-year-old Kori Richardson, who were stabbed to death by their father in the same attack that killed their mother, Kiera Michelle Ware, in Copperas Cove. Not content with having killed three people, Ware's husband, Bryan Richardson, killed the family dog as well.
Primary victims ranged in age from 14 to 90, and 67 percent died in their homes. The 90-year old was shot to death in a nursing home by her elderly husband, who then shot himself.
As in the past, those killing an intimate partner in 2020 chose firearms as their weapon of choice. Some 67 percent of victims were shot to death.
Of the primary victims who were women, 45 percent had made attempts to seek help or end the relationship. Many of the perpetrators had a history, sometimes extensive, of committing violent acts against their current partner, previous partners, and others. Iliana Estrada of Laredo had a protective order against her husband, Ubaldo Quiroz, when he shot her to death. At the time, he was facing pending cases of family violence and strangulation. In the past, he had been convicted of violating a protective order and arrested for family violence assault, but the charges were dismissed. Victor Campbell of Houston strangled his girlfriend, Briana Johnson, killing her. He had previously been convicted twice of felony family violence assault for strangling two previous partners.
In some cases, especially where men were killed by women, the victim had a documented history of abusing the woman perpetrator. In others, there was a history of mutual abuse.
Some of the cases are bizarre. A married couple in Pflugerville ended up dead after Patricia Niles shot and wounded her husband, Timothy, in their home. Timothy returned fire, killing Patricia. He later died of his wounds in the hospital.
Harris County had the most killings, followed by Dallas and Tarrant counties.
In the Texas Panhandle, there were two domestic violence killings in 2020, one each in Potter and Wheeler counties. Kara Barrow of Amarillo was shot to death by her husband, Joseph, and Sabrina Bowen of Shamrock was killed by her boyfriend, Denver Page. No method was given in the Bowen death.
Moore County was spared a domestic violence killing in 2020. But, as reported in the October 2-3 edition of the News-Press, law enforcement agencies in Moore County worked 119 domestic violence incidents in 2020. Those were just the incidents where someone called law enforcement. Experts in domestic violence say the majority of incidents that take place are never reported.
Though domestic violence has been trending up for a while, the TCFV points to the COVID pandemic as having made 2020 a particularly deadly year. "In 2020, the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic increased isolation and economic stressors that compounded the impact of abuse, including frequency and severity of violence."
There is help available for local victims of domestic violence. In addition to calling law enforcement, victims have access to Safe Place, Inc. in Dumas, a domestic violence shelter that is available for residents of Moore, Dallam, Hartley and Sherman counties. Family Support Services in Amarillo also operates a shelter. The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or www.thehotline.org is another source of help and information. The hotline is completely confidential.